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Robert Walls' French sojourn a tale of canines

Walls, clearly, is very attached to Gus. So much so that his daughter Rebecca wants to come back in her next life as a canine to be cared for by her dad and his partner, Julie.

The five year old Red Boxer was at the launch, too, impassive to the throng of celebrities, family and well wishers on hand to hear about the sojourn in Saint Rmy de Provence as told by the beloved pet.

The Walls clan rented a 19th century farmhouse that wasa 30 minute walk from the nearest village and a 25 minute drive from Avignon. They knew no one. They weren't fluent in French. But so enjoyable was their stay it ended with Julie buying a property to which the couple and their four legged companion plan to return for three or four months Van Cleef & Arpels wedding ring copy each year.

Gus has a good story to tell. His French adventure wasn't without drama. He nearly lost an eye, had a cancerous growth removed from his ear, and an inflamed leg, and ended up staying six months longer than his carers.

"We got to know most of the vets in southern France," Walls says. "We thought we were going to lose him. He was lying on a floor in the vets at Avignon for two weeks, wouldn't eat, wouldn't take his medicine. But he pulled through. He's still not 100 per cent, but he's happy."

So is his master. For more than 40 years, Walls had marched to AFL football's incessant drum, the demands of playing, coaching, then commentating. "It was nice just to wake up and do whatever we wanted to do," he says.

Walls stayed in touch with football via his iPad, but much of his, Julie, and Gus's time was spent learning about the culture and history of one of the most beautiful parts of the world. "The colours were magnificent," he says, "beautiful blue skies, fields of wild red poppies, golden sunflowers, the mauve of the lavender. And the food? Say no more."

They made strong, lasting friendships with the locals. Such as Jean Paul, or "JP", a ruddy faced, beret wearing lifetime resident of Saint Remy Walls calls, "a ridgy didge Frenchman".

"He'd teach us the history of the place. He'd take us for walks and explain how the Greeks had been there in 300BC before the Romans came. There's still a lot more that haven't been unearthed.

"Vincent Van Gogh spent his last year in Saint Remy, where he did some of his most wonderful paintings. There's a Van Gogh walk, and we'd stop at different places and JP would say this was where Van Gogh had done this painting or that."

Walls was incredulous that JP had sold the bedding business he inherited from Van Cleef & Arpels wedding ring fake his father and retired at the age of 42. "Why?" "Because, Robert," Walls repeats, mocking a heavy French accent, "I am a lazy bastard."

Like everyone, Walls is saddened by the Paris attacks, thinking of his new circle of friends. Of which there are now plenty. The Walls Van Cleef & Arpels gold ring copy clan spent their final six weeks in Saint Remy in the property they had just bought.

"There are little farms around us, just elderly couples, most of them," he says. "We had aperitifs before we left, and we invited them and the friends we'd made. I sat back under the shade of a tree, drinking a glass of Rose, and looked around and just thought: 'We didn't know anyone 12 months ago, and here's 25 people we want to invite to our house'."

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